Dear Labby: What’s Supposed To Happen At A Doggy Play Date?

Two adorable dogs running on wooden dock

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Dear Aunt Labby,

My pup made some dog friends at doggy daycare, and I’m very happy to see that he’s getting along with his new pals so well. In fact, one of the other dog moms suggested that we get together for a doggy play date so our pooches could hang out some more. I was so excited about my boy making new friends that I agreed to host the play date right away without realizing… I’m not really sure what a doggy play date is. I mean, I know it’s a date for our dogs to play, but what is supposed to happen? Am I supposed to come up with games for them to play? Should I make doggy snacks? Should I have drinks ready to entertain a fellow dog mom, or am I going to be a solo pet sitter at this event? I’m too embarrassed to ask the other dog mom now, so what should I expect?

Signed,

I’m Terribly Stumped And Dogs Are Totally Eager

A black and white Border Collie runs happily with a long tongue hanging out while a small tan Chihuahua chases after.

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DearĀ I’m Terribly Stumped And Dogs Are Totally Eager,

There is no perfect instruction manual on what a doggy play date is or how to plan one, though there are plenty of opinions out there. Really, it’s just an opportunity for your dog to burn off some energy with a canine companion. It’s easy to overthink things in a situation like this, but so long as your dog gets a chance to play safely with his new friend, you can consider the play date a success.

The good news is that hosting a play date for only two dogs is easier than hosting a whole dog party. Maybe that’s a challenge you’ll want to take on in the future, but you should learn to doggy paddle before you jump in the deep end, and a simple doggy play date for two is a good way to start. It shouldn’t be too difficult if your dog is already friends with the guest pup and they’re both well-socialized.

two very happy dogs

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First of all, the dog mom who suggested the doggy play date is also probably interested in getting to know you. It would be pretty impolite to suggest a doggy play date just to dump her dog on you for a free pet sitting gig without specifying that she was planning to do so. So do whatever you normally would do when you have a guest over. Invite them in for a drink. Make small talk. Get friendly.

Your major concern should be safety for the dogs. Always be in eyesight of where the dogs will play. If that’s in your yard, set up some lawn chairs for you and your new dog mom friend. If it’s in your living room, a sofa will do. If you plan on drinking, make sure you don’t overdo it. Stay aware. If play gets too rough, you’ll need to separate the dogs and have areas for them to take breaks and calm down. Have a first-aid kit in case there are any accidents and phone numbers for the vet and animal hospital if things get serious.

Two dogs jumping and playing in the garden with a young girl playing in the garden

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When it comes to what you should provide for the dogs, that’s mostly up to you. Some dog moms go all out and make homemade dog treats. Some think up games for dogs to play or set up obstacle courses. If that sounds like fun to you, go for it, but know that these things are above and beyond. Otherwise, you need only provide the essentials. Plenty of access to fresh water and chances to go outside to go potty should be enough. Maybe a toy or two if the pups want to do more than just chase each other around.

While the dogs play, get to know the other dog mom. If you can build a relationship of trust, it may be a chance for you to rely on each other in the future if either of you need someone to take care of your dogs for a while at the last minute. It’s good to have a friend in the area in case of emergencies.

Two dogs are playing with a stick

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A few things to keep in mind. First, you should have some cleaning materials in case of potty accidents in the house. You never know what can happen when dogs get excited. Second, dogs can act differently when they’re on their home turf, so if your dog shows signs of aggression, end the play date or move to a neutral area like a local dog park or beach. Finally, stick to your dog’s schedule as much as you can. If they need to eat or get medicine at a certain time, break up the play session and take care of those needs.

So, I.T.’S. A. D.A.T.E, hopefully that puts your mind at ease a bit. After your first doggy play date, you’ll be ready for another one, and maybe the other dog mom will be willing to host. Play dates are a great way for you and your dog to make friends, so relax and go with the flow. Be the responsible pet parent you usually are, and everything will be fine.

Signed,

Aunt Labby

Have you ever hosted a doggy play date? Do you have a question for Dear Labby? Let us know in the comments below!

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